published Friday, December 2nd, 2011

MainX24 highlights the Southside

Judah Hollly, 7, tests out her Hula-Hooping skills with Chattahoopers, a Hula-Hoop troop participating in the Mainx24 busking competition. 
Staff File Photo
Judah Hollly, 7, tests out her Hula-Hooping skills with Chattahoopers, a Hula-Hoop troop participating in the Mainx24 busking competition. Staff File Photo

Andrew Nigh, a local sculptor, called MainX24 a "24-hour block party on steroids."

A Saturday-to-Sunday series of open houses, activities and events, all clustered around Main Street and the Southside, has become one of Chattanooga's hottest 21st-century traditions.

MainX24 was born five years ago at the beginning of the revitalization of the Main Street district. Ken Hays, a former president of RiverCity Co. and one of the original organizers of the event, said, "It showed the community what a 24-hour city could be like."

After the first year, Hays and David Hudson took over as coordinators of the event.

"The only thing we do is put it all together," Hays said. The shop and establishment owners in the district have autonomy when it comes to planning their events.

CreateHere, a nonprofit group tasked with being a catalyst for creative urban projects, birthed MainX24 and continues to participate, albeit in a reduced role.

"Today, it's owned, beloved and organized completely by our neighbors and friends," according to a CreateHere news release.

CreateHere still hosts several events this year, including "Placing Students in the Spotlight," in which Chattanooga Music Teacher Association students may stop by and play on a Steinway concert grand piano provided by Summitt Pianos.

Christian Collier, who participated last year as a spoken-word and musical performer, plans to attend this year as an observer.

"I was really surprised last year," he said of his first MainX24. "I had no idea it was such a diverse event. I kind of kicked myself for being so ignorant about it before."

More than 100 events will take place, including a street food court and an ugly Christmas sweater party. The Crash Pad, a boutique hostel, and LifeKraze, an Internet company, will be hosting a "pregame" party, featuring ping pong, ladder golf and other activities.

"Last year we were a construction site, so we couldn't participate," said Dan Rose, one of the owners of The Crash Pad.

Rose said he hopes the party will be a way to welcome locals to a venue generally reserved for visitors. "We want people to come and hang out," he said.

At Planet Altered, a Southside creative-arts center, several events, including a workshop in which guests can design decorations for worldwide holidays, will take place.

Some establishments, including Hart Gallery, will be hosting open houses, while other locations will boast more elaborate events and activities.

One of the main attractions of MainX24 is Nigh's sculpture burn, which Hays said has become "one of the key signature events." Nigh, a local sculptor and woodworker, is creating a large piece that will be burned down at 8 p.m. Saturday.

He became involved in MainX24 in 2008 as a studio owner and then was invited to present a sculpture burn at the event last year. "I had never done [a public burning] before," he said. The burning will raise funds for the Children's Advocacy Center.

"[Burning] speaks to me on a lot of different levels," he said. "I definitely enjoy designing and building things. The fire element, the ephermeral element is something that is vastly different from how I approach my woodworking."

Several of the events will benefit local charities, including a pancake breakfast whose proceeds are donated to Battle Academy, a magnet school at the corner of Main and Market streets.

"It's a give-back type thing," Hays said. "Most of the events are free. The events that cost money, some portion of it goes to charity."

Another grand event is the EPB Southside parade, which includes tricked-out mutts, roller-derby girls and horses.

"I'm very convinced there are few neighborhoods in the Southeast that could pull this thing off," Hays said. "... If there's a common message, it's let's show that we've got a cool, clunky, eclectic neighborhood."

Contact Holly Leber at hleber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/holly leber. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/leber.holly.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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